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Carmody's coaching leads men's basketball through undefeated Ivy campaign

Just two seasons ago Princeton University hired a coach with a grand total of one year of head coaching experience – at Fulton-Montgomery Community College – to take the reins of its men's basketball program.

There were questions. How would the new head coach deal with the still looming shadow of Pete Carril? Did a coach with so little head coaching experience deserve the controls of one of the Ivy League's top basketball programs? Would he be able to direct Princeton's unique brand of offense? How would the players respond to a coaching style that would certainly be different?

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Now, two seasons later, that head coach – Bill Carmody – has led Princeton to a combined record of 50-5, including a 28-0 mark in the Ivies and two consecutive league titles. Carril is brought up mainly to show off Carmody's better qualities. Princeton has gone from one of the preeminent teams in the Ivy League to one of the preeminent teams in the nations.

So much for questions.

Since Bill Carmody took over, all he has done is provide answers. And wins.

Sure, he was left with a bunch of talented players who were coming off an Ivy championship and an upset win over UCLA in the NCAA tournament. Nevertheless the job Carmody has done is nothing short of remarkable.

While a lot of the attention given Princeton this year has focused on its out-of-conference triumphs over scholarship schools and a near victory down at Chapel Hill, Carmody's master stroke hasn't been getting his team to play competitively with bigger programs. It is Princeton's two straight undefeated Ivy League seasons.

For the better part of two seasons, the Tigers have been expected to win every time they step on the court against an Ivy opponent. They have.

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While winning in the Ivy League is not as tough as winning in a conference like the ACC, going undefeated over two seasons in any conference is nothing to sneeze at. There are few things more difficult than winning when you're always expected to and there is immense pressure being the favorite night in and night out.

It's a lot easier to be the underdog. If there is any program that knows that, it's Princeton. But over two full seasons as heavy favorites Princeton has managed to avoid overconfidence or letdowns. And losses.

Carmody deserves a lot of the credit. Somehow, someway Carmody has managed to have his players ready to play every single game. That, more so than Xs and Os, is the main job of any coach. The trademark of the Tigers over the past two seasons has been consistency, and that comes right from Carmody.

"He's a real even keel guy and I think that carries over to the team," says senior center Steve Goodrich, who played a small role in the Tigers' overtime win against Penn Tuesday.

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Carmody hasn't done it by convincing his players that teams such as Brown and Yale are juggernauts. The Tigers are superior to every team in the league. Carmody knows it and his players know it.

"Before the game he says the truth," says senior guard Mitch Henderson, "We know that we're going to come out with a win. He believes and we believe it."

Carmody is always completely honest and his players respect that. In fact, for all of Carmody's attributes – competiveness, motivational skills and excellent speaking skills – the main reason Carmody has been so successful is is the way he handles his players. When they play well Carmody pats them on the back; when they make mistakes, he lets them know it.

But no matter what, Carmody always looks out for his players' best interests. With all the media attention Princeton has received, not much of it has been directed at Carmody. That is a big change from a few years back when the coach was the star of the team. Now the players are. Carmody has made a conscious effort to make it that way. Carmody more so than anyone else has made people realize that it's not "The System" that wins – it's the players.

Henderson tells the story of how Carmody was the first person to tell him about his father's death back in Dec. 1996.

"He drove me to the airport," Henderson says. "He was there for me."

If Princeton never won a game that fact alone would make Carmody a winner.

But the Tigers have won. They've won enough to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. And when the tournament selection committee announces the seeding this Sunday, Princeton will probably be the favorite in its first round matchup for the first time in a long time.

Judging by his team's performance over the past two seasons, that's just the way Bill Carmody wants it.

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